Watergate Salad Revisited

Remember Watergate Salad? That pistachio pudding confection that appeared at Shoney’s salad bars, church potluck dinners, and holiday dinners. Dole published their version, featuring Dole canned crushed pineapple of course, and Jello had theirs, featuring Jello Instant Pistachio Pudding mix. There are variations (some added coconut). This ubiquitous dessert has remained a favorite and continues to make its appearance at dinners and buffets.

Why is it called Watergate Salad? Good question. It’s not a salad and it didn’t originate in Washington DC at the Watergate complex. Unconfirmed stories claim a food writer titled it after Jello introduced its pistachio pudding because the Watergate wiretapping coverup was in the headlines. The name may be silly, but it stuck.

I recently came across my copy of the recipe, handwritten some 40 years ago by Rachel, my late mother-in-law. Making Watergate Salad today was like a visit with her. So, in Rachel’s memory, I made her version of the recipe.

Watergate Salad

Serves 8

🔘1 package instant pudding mix, pistachio*

🔘1 20 oz can crushed pineapple + juice

🔘1 8 oz tub non dairy whipped topping (thawed)

🔘1 cup miniature marshmallows

🔘½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

🔘1 small jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate. Serve.

That’s it. Simple, easy, and light. No wonder this dish is still a favorite.

*To cut calories, I use the sugar-free Jello Instant pudding, but I recommend using regular whipped topping. The fat free and sugar-free versions don’t save many calories, and the texture and taste are significantly better in the regular or extra creamy varieties.

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Lettuce try a different salad…

Summertime is salad time. What’s easier than grabbing a salad mix bag at the grocery store? Yet convenience can lead to boredom.

This time of year, fresh produce is abundant. Visit your local market or produce stand and pick up a variety of squashes, cucumber, cabbage (red and green), carrots, celery, and onion. These vegetables are low in calories, high in nutrients, and filling.

This Hasty Tasty meal is not hasty to prepare. Even with a food processor, you’ll spend close to an hour washing, cutting, slicing, grating, and then assembling a salad that serves 8. But it keeps several days in the refrigerator, available for serving at a moment’s notice. It is a delicious departure from lettuce salad, too.

Just add your choice of dressing.

I take no credit for this salad recipe. I learned it from attending Kitchen Craft Cookware shows as “demonstration salad.” It’s used to demonstrate the Kitchen Cutter, which I bought 20+ years ago. I adapted the recipe for the food processor. However you prepare the salad, you will appreciate the taste. One serving is less than 20 calories, so you can indulge in a Tablespoon of your favorite salad dressing.

Here is a Link to a demonstration salad video on YouTube.

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Chicken Taco Soup

We love taco soup but try to limit red meat. We still love our beloved taco soup, though, so I changed very little to develop the chicken version.

This qualifies as a Hasty Tasty Meal because many ingredients are in your pantry. I developed this recipe for the electric pressure cooker, yet it can be adapted for stovetop or slow cooker cooking.

Recipe

Chicken Taco Soup

Makes 5–6 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 pounds Boneless skinless chicken thighs (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes and green chilies
  • 1 can corn
  • 3 cans beans, your choice of varieties *
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix
  • 1 quart chicken broth (cooking liquid from chicken)
  • (Optional) toppings (cheese, chips, scallions, sour cream)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place chicken in pressure cooker in 2 cups water. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Cook 10 minutes under pressure and then let pressure drop on its own.
  3. Remove chicken from cooking liquid. Pour liquid into a quart measuring pitcher. Add water if necessary to bring amount of broth to 1 quart.
  4. Heat pressure cooker pot and sauté onions. Add taco seasoning packet and stir, just a few seconds until the spices are fragrant. Turn off heat.
  5. Add broth and deglaze the pot.
  6. Shred chicken meat and add to broth.
  7. Open beans, drain, then add to pot.
  8. Add corn, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes (do not drain) to pot.
  9. Pressure cook soup for 10 minutes.
  10. Carefully release pressure and serve with your choice of toppings.

Enjoy.

*This recipe uses garbanzo, black, and pinto beans

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Proof is in the Pudding

One thing we learned from the Coronavirus pandemic was how to manage without unlimited access to groceries. Too many empty shelves at the supermarkets inspired us to go old-school in our home kitchens. One example was instant pudding.

In my adult life, I’ve depended on instant pudding for quick desserts. Add a package to 2 cups milk, turn on the blender, and voila! Perfect, smooth pudding in minutes. But what to do when the stock of packaged pudding is sold out at the stores?

I researched puddings and learned two methods to make homemade pudding: baked custard-type pudding and a stovetop cooked cornstarch-thickened pudding. Either is delicious yet I favor the stovetop method as it seemed simpler. Hasty Tasty Meals are all about easy yet wholesome.

My first experiment was a bit disappointing so I used a little help from Becky at The Hillbilly Kitchen. She has a very good YouTube Video about cornstarch pudding that inspired me to try again. So I made her banana pudding and it was delicious.

Buoyed by my success, I now make all my puddings. Why pay for mixes when adding just a few ingredients to the milk yields the same results…or better!

*I topped mine with cream I whipped myself but learned the next time to add dissolved unflavored gelatin to stabilize it. Real whipped cream breaks down in just a couple of hours.

Homemade banana pudding (after sampling generously 😋)

RecipeHomemade Banana Pudding

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 box vanilla wafers
  • 2 cups milk (any kind)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • whipped cream (for optional topping)

In a serving dish, layer bananas (1/4” slices) and vanilla wafers. In a separate dish, combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Whisk together thoroughly and set aside.

In a heavy 3 quart saucepan, heat milk until steaming but not yet boiling. Whisk in the dry ingredients, raise the temperature, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. After one minute, mixture should thicken.

Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Pour pudding over the layered bananas and vanilla wafers. Do not stir. Pudding will seep through the layers. Cornstarch-thickened pudding is prone to separating if overworked. Refrigerate the banana pudding at least an hour before serving. Serve topped with whipped cream (optional) or nondairy whipped topping. Garnish with a vanilla wafer or a banana slice, if desired.

Save money and use your own ingredients to make delicious pudding at home. Vary the flavorings to create other flavors using the basic recipe of 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp. cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a Tbsp. real butter. Add whatever extracts you fancy, or bloom cocoa powder in a bit of hot water for chocolate pudding. Experiment and enjoy.

God bless you, Becky Walker, for your tutorial.

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